Affordable Care Act Helping Prevent Disease
Affordable Care Act Making a Difference
This week marks the third birthday of the Affordable Care Act. Across HHS, we celebrate the law's efforts to give Americans more security by holding insurance companies accountable, bringing down costs across the system, and helping more families get the peace of mind of affordable health insurance. At CDC, we especially celebrate the law's potential for prevention of disease and injury—prevention in communities and prevention in clinics. Three years later, it is wonderful to see that potential being realized.
It's better to prevent a disease than to try to cure one
CDC works to prevent disease and injury in many ways. We work with state and local health departments to detect and respond to outbreaks and help support community prevention activities. CDC also works to prevent disease by supporting the uptake of preventive services—recommended tests and screenings that can detect diseases early when they can be treated effectively, or vaccinations that protect against infectious diseases. Our science supports what we know intuitively—it is better to prevent a disease than try to cure it once it has struck.
Despite the proven benefits of these tests, screenings, and vaccinations, millions of Americans still do not get these services. For example, we know that screening for colorectal cancer is highly effective for people aged 50 to 75 years. But about one-third of Americans are not up-to-date with these tests.
Eliminating one barrier to preventive care – required copays and deductibles
One barrier is out-of-pocket payments—required copays and deductibles. The Affordable Care Act eliminates cost-sharing for proven preventive services offered by new private health plans, making it easier for people to receive mammograms, flu shots, smoking cessation counseling, and many more preventive services. Medicare beneficiaries are also eligible for key preventive services at no out-of-pocket cost.
Now, we are making progress. This week, HHS released a study showing that, because of the Affordable Care Act, approximately 71 million Americans received expanded coverage for preventive services in 2011 and 2012. And last year, more than 34 million seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare used at least one free preventive service. In time, this coverage will help save lives.
Improvements in our ability to track, detect and respond to disease threats
The law also has supported CDC's work with its partners to sustain and enhance crucial public health initiatives. As two examples, we have made improvements to the nation's health and healthcare surveillance activities so we have better data on health status and healthcare activities, and we have enhanced the Community Preventive Services Task Force's capacity to assess and disseminate scientific evidence for community prevention activities.
We've also buttressed the nation's capacity to detect and respond to disease threats. As examples, we have enhanced the capacity of laboratories and skilled disease detectives, improved programs to address healthcare-associated infections, and supported state health department innovation. The law has helped support efforts to prevent the leading causes of death and disease, supported programs to modernize our nation's immunization system and reduce tobacco use, and has empowered communities to implement evidence-based programs that help them be healthier places to live.
The Affordable Care Act has provided opportunities to bring the public health and health care systems together, a move with substantial potential to save lives. Million Hearts™, for example, is the joint CMS-CDC national initiative to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. The Affordable Care Act provides the drivers and momentum to align improved cardiovascular disease prevention in clinical settings with simultaneous efforts in the community.
The Affordable Care Act created the National Prevention Council, comprised of heads of 17 federal agencies. The Council developed a National Prevention Strategy to catalyze actions by all sectors of society to support health and wellness and prevent disease. Already we have seen progress as states and localities have begun to adopt the Strategy to enhance prevention activities, and federal agencies have enhanced their prevention activities. DOD's announcement of its Healthy Base Initiative, for example, was part of the National Prevention Strategy.
More prevention means healthier people
CDC, like our partners across HHS and the administration, agrees that reducing the uninsured will have substantial public health benefits, including improving access to important preventive services. New Health Insurance Marketplaces will expand health insurance coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. This means more prevention and healthier people.
While there are many successes of the Affordable Care Act at age three, there is still much work to do. The last three years have shown us that we have a solid foundation upon which to build.
Learn more about the key features of the Affordable Care Act at www.healthcare.gov/law/features.
Find out about the Health Insurance Marketplace and sign up for email and text updates at http://www.healthcare.gov/marketplace/index.html.
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